Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Biggest needs revisited.
The first "Draft Watch" installment broke down each team's biggest needs before the free-agency period began. Four weeks later, not much has changed for the Bills. Their positional priorities continue to be quarterback, left tackle and a nose tackle for their new 3-4 defense. The Bills have been judicious in their signings, and the players they've brought aboard haven't addressed major areas of concern. They've added right tackle Cornell Green, inside linebacker Andra Davis and defensive end Dwan Edwards.
The Dolphins knew an inside linebacker was essential and threw a ton of money at the best one on the free-agent market. They made Karlos Dansby the highest-paid player at his position. But they haven't found a free safety after cutting last year's starter, Gibril Wilson, and failing to land Pittsburgh Steelers free agent Ryan Clark. Nose tackle remains a question mark. They re-signed veteran Jason Ferguson, but he'll be suspended for the first eight games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. The Dolphins' perennial need is at wide receiver, an area they've declined to address through free agency since misidentifying Ernest Wilford in 2008.
The Patriots have four draft picks in the top 53 slots. They can address several positions that way. And maybe that's why they haven't been too active in free agency outside of re-signing their own players. Outside linebacker appears to remain a glaring need. Bill Belichick brought back last year's sacks leader, Tully Banta-Cain, but Adalius Thomas' future is in doubt. The Patriots may have tipped their hand about what they consider a need by getting involved in trade talks for Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin. Last week's news that slot receiver Wes Welker underwent rotator cuff surgery creates that much more concern.
No team's needs have changed as much in the past four weeks as the Jets. General manager Mike Tannenbaum has been busy through trades and free agency. Tannenbaum said the Jets were destined to draft a cornerback with their first-round pick until they traded with the San Diego Chargers for Antonio Cromartie. The Jets haven't brought in any new receivers yet (unless you want to count running back LaDainian Tomlinson for what he adds out of the backfield), but something tells me Tannenbaum will make a trade to improve the receiving corps. As for the draft, the Jets could use safety help after trading Kerry Rhodes and must fortify their general depth on both sides of the ball, particularly on the lines.